Aircraft registration

An aircraft registration is a code unique to a single aircraft, required by international convention to be marked on the exterior of every civil aircraft. The registration indicates the aircraft's country of registration, and functions much like an automobile license plate. This code must also appear in its Certificate of Registration, issued by the relevant National Aviation Authority (NAA). An aircraft can only have one registration, in one jurisdiction, though it is changeable over the life of the aircraft.

A Van's Aircraft RV-7 displaying registration G-KELS. The G prefix denotes a civil aircraft registered in the United Kingdom.
Aircraft Registration Prefixes Map of the World 2014
Registration prefixes list on map

Legal provisions

In accordance with the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also known as the Chicago Convention), all civil aircraft must be registered with a national aviation authority (NAA) using procedures set by each country. Every country, even those not party to the Chicago Convention, has an NAA whose functions include the registration of civil aircraft. An aircraft can only be registered once, in one jurisdiction, at a time. The NAA allocates a unique alphanumeric string to identify the aircraft, which also indicates the nationality (i.e., country of registration[1]) of the aircraft, and provides a legal document called a Certificate of Registration, one of the documents which must be carried when the aircraft is in operation.[2]

The registration identifier must be displayed prominently on the aircraft.[3] Most countries also require the registration identifier to be imprinted on a permanent fireproof plate mounted on the fuselage in case of a post-fire/post-crash aircraft accident investigation.

Most nations' military aircraft typically use tail codes and serial numbers.[4] Military aircraft most often are not assigned civil registration codes. However, government-owned non-military civil aircraft (for example, aircraft of the United States Department of Homeland Security) are assigned civil registrations.

Although each aircraft registration identifier is unique, some countries allow it to be re-used when the aircraft has been sold, destroyed or retired. For example, N3794N is assigned to a Mooney M20F.[5] It had been previously assigned to a Beechcraft Bonanza (specifically, the aircraft in which Buddy Holly was killed). Also note that an individual aircraft may be assigned different registrations during its existence. This can be because the aircraft changes ownership, jurisdiction of registration, or in some cases for vanity reasons.

Choice of aircraft registry

Most often, aircraft are registered in the jurisdiction in which the carrier is resident or based, and may enjoy preferential rights or privileges as a flag carrier for international operations.

Carriers in emerging markets may be required to register aircraft in an offshore jurisdiction where they are leased or purchased but financed by banks in major onshore financial centres. The financing institution may be reluctant to allow the aircraft to be registered in the carrier's home country (either because it does not have sufficient regulation governing civil aviation, or because it feels the courts in that country would not cooperate fully if it needed to enforce any security interest over the aircraft), and the carrier is reluctant to have the aircraft registered in the financier's jurisdiction (often the United States or the United Kingdom) either because of personal or political reasons, or because they fear spurious lawsuits and potential arrest of the aircraft.

International standards

JAL B747-400(JA8089) (5481514185)
Registration JA8089 on a Japan Airlines Boeing 747-400

The first use of aircraft registrations was based on the radio callsigns allocated at the London International Radiotelegraphic Conference in 1913. The format was a single letter prefix followed by four other letters (like A-BCDE).[6] The major nations operating aircraft were allocated a single letter prefix. Smaller countries had to share a single letter prefix, but were allocated exclusive use of the first letter of the suffix.[6] This was modified by agreement by the International Bureau at Berne and published on April 23, 1913. Although initial allocations were not specifically for aircraft but for any radio user, the International Air Navigation Convention held in Paris in 1919 (Paris Convention of 1919) made allocations specifically for aircraft registrations, based on the 1913 callsign list. The agreement stipulated that the nationality marks were to be followed by a hyphen then a group of four letters that must include a vowel (and for the convention Y was considered to be a vowel). This system operated until the adoption of the revised system in 1928.

The International Radiotelegraph Convention at Washington in 1927 revised the list of markings. These were adopted from 1928 and are the basis of the currently used registrations. The markings have been amended and added to over the years, and the allocations and standards have since 1947 been managed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Article 20 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), signed in 1944, requires that all aircraft engaged in international air navigation bears its appropriate nationality and registration marks. Upon registration, the aircraft receives its unique "registration", which must be displayed prominently on the aircraft.

Annex 7 to the Chicago Convention describes the definitions, location, and measurement of nationality and registration marks. The aircraft registration is made up of a prefix selected from the country's callsign prefix allocated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) (making the registration a quick way of determining the country of origin) and the registration suffix. Depending on the country of registration, this suffix is a numeric or alphanumeric code, and consists of one to five characters. A supplement to Annex 7 provides an updated list of approved nationality and common marks used by various countries.

Country-specific usage

Air France Airbus A318 displaying registration F-GUGJ on the wing undersurface and the last two letters of the registration, GJ, on the nose wheel doors
Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (VT-ANG) departs London Heathrow Airport 2ndJuly2014 arp
A Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner displaying Air India registration VT-ANG on the wing undersurface, on the nose wheel doors and on the rear fuselage

While the Chicago convention sets out the country-specific prefixes used in registration marks, and makes provision for the ways they are used in international civil aviation and displayed on aircraft, individual countries also make further provision for their formats and the use of registration marks for intranational flight.

When painted on the aircraft's fuselage, the prefix and suffix are usually separated by a dash (for example, YR-BMA). When entered in a flight plan, the dash is omitted (for example, YRBMA). In some countries that use a number suffix rather than letters, like the United States (N), South Korea (HL), and Japan (JA), the prefix and suffix are connected without a dash. Aircraft flying privately usually use their registration as their radio callsign, but many aircraft flying in commercial operations (especially charter, cargo, and airlines) use the ICAO airline designator or a company callsign.

Some countries will permit an aircraft that will not be flown into the airspace of another country to display the registration with the country prefix omitted - for example, gliders registered in Australia commonly display only the three-letter unique mark, without the "VH-" national prefix.

Some countries also operate a separate registry system, or use a separate group of unique marks, for gliders, ultralights, and/or other less-common types of aircraft. For example, Germany and Switzerland both use lettered suffixes (in the form D-xxxx and HB-xxx respectively) for most forms of flight-craft but numbers (D-nnnn and HB-nnn) for unpowered gliders. Many other nations register gliders in subgroups beginning with the letter G, such as Norway with LN-Gxx and New Zealand with ZK-Gxx.

United States

In the United States, the registration number is commonly referred to as an "N" number, because all aircraft registered there have a number starting with the letter N. An alphanumeric system is used because of the large numbers of aircraft registered in the United States. An N-number begins with a run of one or more numeric digits, may end with one or two alphabetic letters, may only consist of one to five characters in total, and must start with a digit other than zero. In addition, N-numbers may not contain the letters I or O, due to their similarities with the numerals 1 and 0.[7]

Each alphabetic letter in the suffix can have one of 24 discrete values, while each numeric digit can be one of 10, except the first, which can take on only one of nine values. This yields a total of 915,399 possible registration numbers in the namespace, though certain combinations are reserved either for government use or for other special purposes.[7] With so many possible calls, radio shortcuts are used. Normally when flying entirely within the United States, an aircraft would not identify itself starting with "N", since that is assumed. Also, after initial contact is made with an aircraft control site, only the last two or three characters are typically used.

The following are the combinations that could be used:

US Registration Closeup
U.S. "N-number"

An older aircraft (registered before 31 December 1948) may have a second letter in its identifier, identifying the category of aircraft. This additional letter is not actually part of the aircraft identification (e.g. NC12345 is the same registration as N12345). Aircraft category letters have not been included on any registration numbers issued since 1 January 1949, but they still appear on antique aircraft for authenticity purposes. The categories were:

  • C = airline, commercial and private
  • G = glider
  • L = limited
  • R = restricted (such as cropdusters and racing aircraft)[8]
  • S = state
  • X = experimental

For example, N-X-211, the Ryan NYP aircraft flown by Charles Lindbergh as the Spirit of St. Louis was registered in the experimental category.

There is a unique overlap in the United States with aircraft having a single number followed by two letters and radio call signs issued by the Federal Communications Commission to Amateur Radio operators holding the Amateur Extra class license. For example, N4YZ is, on the one hand, a Cessna 206 registered to a private individual in California, while N4YZ is also issued to an Amateur Radio operator in North Carolina.

Decolonisation and independence

The impact of decolonisation and independence on aircraft registration schemes has varied from place to place. Most countries, upon independence, have had a new allocation granted – in most cases this is from the new country's new ITU allocation, but neither is it uncommon for the new country to be allocated a subset of their former colonial power's allocation. For example, after partition in 1947, India retained the VT designation it had received as part of the British Empire's Vx series allocation, while Pakistan adopted the AP designation from the newly allocated ITU callsigns APA-ASZ.

When this happens it is usually the case that aircraft will be re-registered into the new series retaining as much of the suffix as is possible. For example, when in 1929 the British Dominions at the time established their own aircraft registers, marks were reallocated as follows:

  • Canada: G-Cxxx to CF-xxx, then expanded to C-Fxxx, C-Gxxx, and C-Ixxx in 1974)
  • Australia: G-AUxx to VH-Uxx, then immediately expanded to all VH-xxx marks.
  • New Zealand: G-NZxx to ZK-Zxx, then immediately expanded to all ZK-xxx marks.
  • Newfoundland: G-Cxxx (with Canada) to VO-xxx, then re-merged with the Canadian register in 1949 to CF-xxx.
  • South Africa: G-UAxx to ZU-Axx, then expanded to all ZU-xxx marks, then again to current ZS-xxx, ZT-Rxx, and ZU-xxx allocations.

Two oddities created by this reallocation process are the current formats used by the Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong and Macau, both of which were returned to PRC control from Britain in 1997 and Portugal in 1999 respectively. Hong Kong's prefix of VR-H and Macau's of CS-M, both subdivisions of their colonial powers' allocations, were replaced by China's B- prefix without the registration mark being extended, leaving aircraft from both SARs with registration marks of only four characters, as opposed to the norm of five.

See also


  1. ^ Article 17 of the Chicago Convention
  2. ^ Article 29 of the Chicago Convention
  3. ^ Article 20 of the Chicago Convention
  4. ^ "US Air Force Tail Codes". Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  5. ^ "N3794N". Archived from the original on 2012-02-17. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  6. ^ a b "Complete Civil Registers:1 Belgium". Air-Britain Archive. 1980 (1): 11. 1980. ISSN 0262-4923.
  7. ^ a b c d "Forming an N-Number". 2015-03-19. Retrieved 2016-09-14.
  8. ^ Sean Elliott (March 2015). "What does restricted category have to do with experimental". Sport Aviation: 11.

External links

1963 Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-124 Neva river ditching

The 1963 Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-124 Neva river ditching (Russian: Посадка Ту-124 на Неву) was a water landing by a Tupolev Tu-124 of the Soviet state airline Aeroflot (Moscow division). The aircraft took off from Tallinn-Ülemiste Airport (TLL) at 08:55 on 21 August with 45 passengers and 7 crew on board. The aircraft (registration number SSSR-45021) was built in 1962 and was scheduled to fly to Moscow–Vnukovo (VKO) under the command of 27-year-old captain Victor Mostovoy. After takeoff the nose gear did not retract. Ground control diverted the flight to Leningrad (LED) – because of fog at Tallinn.

1969 Royal Nepal Airlines DC-3 crash

On 12 July 1969, a Douglas DC-3 operated by Royal Nepal Airlines crashed in Nepal en route from Tribhuvan International Airport to Simara Airport on a domestic scheduled passenger flight. The wreckage of the aircraft, registration 9N-AAP, was found in Hetauda, Makwanpur District. All 31 passengers and four crew aboard were killed in the crash. An investigation into the crash was launched by Nepalese authorities after the accident site was located.

2000 Royal Nepal Airlines Twin Otter crash

On 27 July 2000, de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter operated by Royal Nepal Airlines crashed in Nepal en route from Bajhang Airport to Dhangadhi Airport on a domestic passenger flight. The wreckage of the aircraft, registration 9N-ABP, was found in Jogbuda, Dadeldhura District. All 22 passengers and three crew aboard were killed in the crash. An investigation into the crash was launched by Nepalese authorities after the accident site was located.

2003 Iran Ilyushin Il-76 crash

The 2003 Iran Ilyushin Il-76 crash occurred on 19 February 2003, when an Ilyushin Il-76 crashed in mountainous terrain near Kerman in Iran. The Aerospace Force of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution aircraft, registration 15-2280, was flying from Zahedan to Kerman when it crashed 35 kilometres (22 mi; 19 nmi) southeast of Kerman. The aircraft was carrying members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, a special force that is independent from the Iranian Army, on an unknown mission.Strong winds were reported in the region of the crash when the aircraft disappeared from the radar screens; approximately at the same time, villagers in the area described hearing a loud explosion. There were no survivors among the 275 occupants on board the aircraft.


8R may refer to :

Sol Líneas Aéreas IATA airlines designator

Guyana aircraft registration code

A standard consumer print size for photographs. See Standard photographic print sizes.


9A or 9-A may refer to :

Gemini 9A, a 1966 manned spaceflight

Airco DH.9A, a 1918 British light bomber

9A-91, a carbine assault rifle currently in use with Russian police forces

9-a-side footy, a sport based on Australian rules football

9A- Croatian aircraft registration prefix (ICAO)No panties

Allegheny Airlines Flight 737


Allegheny Airlines Flight 737 was a Convair CV-580 (aircraft registration N5825), that crashed while attempting to land at Bradford Regional Airport in Bradford, Pennsylvania on January 6, 1969. Eleven of the 28 occupants on board were killed.

Barbados Civil Aviation Department

The Barbados Civil Aviation Department (BCAD) is the civil aviation authority of Barbados. It has its headquarters on the property of Sir Grantley Adams International Airport in Christ Church. The department is headed by the Director of Civil Aviation, who is supported by one Technical Officer, five Inspectors, a Chief Aeronautical Information Service Officer, a Chief Air Traffic Control Officer and other support staff. It is governed under the Civil Aviation Act of 2004. The department was created to advise the Ministry of International Business and International Transport, who is responsible for the regulation and control of all aspects of civil aviation in Barbados. BCAD cooperates with other regional authorities in the Caribbean under the bloc known as the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System (CASSOS)Aircraft registered in Barbados must carry the identification mark "8P-". The Barbados Civil Aviation allows three categories for aircraft registration in the country:

(i) the Government,

(ii) a citizen of Barbados, or

(iii) a body incorporated under the Companies Act, or in a Commonwealth country; or a Contracting State and having its principal place of business in Barbados, or in another Commonwealth country, or Contracting State.

Belgian aircraft registration and serials

Belgian owned and operated aircraft are identified by either registration letters or serial numbers for military aircraft.

Bellanca 31-40

The Bellanca 31-40 Senior Pacemaker and its derivatives were a family of a six- and eight-seat utility aircraft built in the United States in the late 1930s. They were the final revision of the original Wright WB-2 design Bellanca had bought in the late 1920s. The model numbers used by Bellanca in this period reflected the wing area (in this case, 310 square feet) and engine horsepower (400 and up in this series), each divided by ten. Like their predecessors, these were high-wing braced monoplanes with conventional tailwheel undercarriage.

A single Senior Skyrocket was bought by the United States Navy in 1938 for use as a utility transport, designated JE-1. Senior Skyrockets were also built under licence by Northwest Industries in Canada following World War II.

In 2007, a single example remains extant - the first Canadian-built aircraft (registration CF-DCH). It is preserved at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum.


CelebAir is a reality TV series in which 11 celebrities perform the duties of cabin crew and check-in attendants. The series was presented by Angellica Bell and aired on ITV2 from 2 September 2008 until 23 October 2008, when Lisa Maffia was declared the winner.

For the show, Monarch Airlines repainted one of its Airbus A321 aircraft, registration G-OZBI, with the CelebAir logo along with a new tail fin design. The aircraft was used for the majority of CelebAir flights although the celebrities additionally worked on normal Monarch branded aircraft.

CelebAir activity took place on Monarch flights which were already part of the summer schedule; with the rear of the aircraft allocated as the CelebAir cabin with the celebrities working from the rear galley along with their mentors.

Before any of the celebrities were allowed to start their new jobs, they undertook a six-week training programme run by Monarch and were required to adhere to Monarch’s standards whilst working for CelebAir.

The series is set in London Gatwick Airport and, in the finale, the private jet took off and landed at London Stansted Airport. There are seven destinations that CelebAir flew to; those being Tenerife South Airport, Faro Airport, Málaga Airport, Ibiza Airport, Mahon Airport, Larnaca International Airport and Alicante Airport.

Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority

The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (Greek: Υπηρεσία Πολιτικής Αεροπορίας), abbreviated HCAA (Greek: ΥΠΑ), is a department of the Greek government under the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks. It is involved in air traffic control, aeronautical communications, airport operations, aircraft registration and inspection, licensing of civil air operators, and personnel certification.The headquarters of the HCAA are located at Glyfada, near the old Ellinikon Airport.

LANSA Flight 501

LANSA Flight 501 was a domestic flight from Lima to Cusco operated by a Lockheed L-749 Constellation aircraft registration OB-R-771. On 27 April 1966 flight 501 crashed into a mountain side in Tomas District.The plane radioed a distress call 10 minutes after takeoff. At least four Americans, two Swiss, one Canadian, three Germans and one Spaniard were on board. Three of the Americans were Peace Corp volunteers.

LOT Polish Airlines

LOT Polish Airlines, legally incorporated as Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT S.A. (Polish pronunciation: [lɔt], flight), is the flag carrier of Poland. Based in Warsaw and established on 29 December 1928, it is one of the world's oldest airlines still in operation. With a fleet of 90 aircraft, LOT Polish Airlines flies to 131 destinations across Europe, Asia and North America. Most of the destinations originate from its hub at Warsaw Chopin Airport. LOT is a member of the Star Alliance.

Tail code

Tail codes are markings usually on the vertical stabilizer of U.S. military aircraft that help identify the aircraft's unit and/or base assignment. This is not the same as the serial number, bureau number, or aircraft registration which provide unique aircraft identification.

Tail number

A tail number refers to an identification number painted on an aircraft, frequently on the tail.

Tail numbers can represent:

An aircraft registration number (civil aviation)

United States military aircraft serials

United Kingdom military aircraft serials

United Kingdom aircraft registration

United Kingdom aircraft registration is a register and means of identification for British owned and operated commercial and private aircraft, they are identified by registration letters starting with the prefix G-.

United Kingdom military aircraft serial numbers

United Kingdom military aircraft serial numbers are aircraft registration numbers used to identify individual military aircraft in the United Kingdom (UK). All UK military aircraft are allocated and display a unique registration number. A unified registration number system, maintained initially by the Air Ministry (AM), and its successor the Ministry of Defence (MoD), is used for aircraft operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF), Fleet Air Arm (FAA), and Army Air Corps (AAC). Military aircraft operated by government agencies and civilian contractors (for example QinetiQ) are also assigned registration numbers from this system.

When the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed in 1912, its aircraft were identified by a letter/number system related to the manufacturer. The prefix 'A' was allocated to balloons of No.1 Company, Air Battalion, Royal Engineers, the prefix 'B' to aeroplanes of No.2 Company, and the prefix 'F' to aeroplanes of the Central Flying School. The Naval Wing used the prefix 'H' for seaplanes ('Hydroaeroplanes' as they were then known), 'M' for monoplanes, and 'T' for aeroplanes with engines mounted in tractor configuration. Before the end of the first year, a unified aircraft registration number system was introduced for both Army and Naval aircraft.

The registration numbers are allocated at the time the contract for supply is placed with the aircraft manufacturer or supplier.

In an RAF or FAA pilot's personal service log book, the registration number of any aircraft flown, along with any other particulars, such as aircraft type, flight duration, purpose of flight, etc., is entered by the pilot after every flight, thus giving a complete record of the pilot's flying activities and which individual aircraft have been flown.


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